Keeping railway and rail trail may be costly, group warns
KEEPING the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line entirely intact next to the proposed rail trail along the same route might be cost prohibitive, according to rail trail supporters.
An appeal to block the ripping up of the tracks in order to make way for the rail trail was recently made by Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith.
Northern Rivers Rail Trail group secretary Geoff Meers said the group didn't have a problem with that proposal - and had even included in their recent proposal to the government that "where possible" the tracks be retained.
However, Mr Meers suggested keeping the track along the entire length of the corridor was impractical unless the government was willing to fork out millions more on the rail trail project.
"All we are saying is this corridor should be turned into a rail trail, how the government does that is not up to us," he said.
Along the 132km stretch of track are many embankments, cuttings and tunnels, where a rail trail would have to divert if it was to avoid replacing the tracks.
That would involve the track going up steep hills if it bypassed a tunnel, or the construction of new embankments in other places across flood plain.
Northern Rivers Rail Trail vice president Cameron Arnold said the real issue was not about the train tracks, but the preservation of the entire corridor in public hands, which the rail trail would achieve.
He said there was little chance of the NSW Government returning trains to the region in the short-term when it was a struggle to justify bringing one to Sydney.
"It's always been the rail trail philosophy to maintain the corridor in public hands, and the best way to do that is actually do something with it," he said.
"It's fine to say let's keep the tracks, but if you don't do anything with it you'll lose it."
Mr Arnold said a rail trail would bring tourists and create jobs, while preserving the corridor in its entirety for a possible future transport use.